VOTING for Zambia’s general elections started early Thursday morning, with citizens out in force to elect parliamentarians, local government leaders, and a new president.
A huge turnout has been reported as people queued for hours before polling stations opened nationwide at 6 a.m. local time (0400GMT).
Incumbent President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front, who is seeking re-election, and his wife cast their votes just after 6 a.m. in the capital Lusaka.
His main challenger, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development, is expected to vote in the next few hours.
Zambia, a Southern African country of some 18 million, has over 7 million registered voters, who will choose parliamentarians from 156 constituencies and local council members from 116 districts in 10 provinces.
Some Zambian voters waiting for their turn to vote at a school in capital Lusaka
Election observers from organizations such as the EU and the African Union are on the ground to monitor proceedings.
John Bwalya, waiting at a polling station in Lusaka, said the turnout was heartening to see, but the pace of voting was very slow.
“Only 25 people have been able to vote since this polling station opened two hours ago,” he told Anadolu Agency.
With polling scheduled to end at 6 p.m. (1600GMT), officials are hoping that the pace will pick up during the day.
This is Zambia’s seventh general election since the country returned to multiparty politics three decades ago and the second under a new constitution passed in 2016.
The winning presidential candidate has to bag more than 50% of the votes cast, otherwise a second-round vote will be held.